A Follow up to Apogee’s 2008 Search Predictions

At the beginning of the year, this post on the Apogee Search Marketing Blog made some predictions about search marketing in 2008. Before we try to make any predictions about 2009, let’s take a minute to review 2008’s search predictions compared to what actually occurred over the last 12 months.

Apogee’s 2008 search predictions were as follows:

  1. Management tools become the cost of having a seat at the paid search table, rather than a competitive advantage. PPC management tools were certainly abundant in 2008. And, yes, they were almost necessary to a campaign’s success. Whether these tools were internal or external, focused on automated bid management, analyzing data or testing campaign variables, management tools freed up paid search managers’ time so they could focus on new opportunities, expansion and overall strategy.
  2. Business/marketing acumen becomes more important to paid search management than technical prowess. While tools are great, tools just do what we tell them to do. Ultimately paid search managers have to set appropriate goals for marketers and outline the necessary steps to reach those goals. This year ad copy and landing page testing have gained popularity as marketers focus on increasing conversion rates. With new tools such as Google Website Optimizer (GWO), these tests are becoming easier to implement.
  3. Search engines continue to provide better bid management functionality. Most tools vendors don’t react. Search engines have made many improvements in an effort to provide better bid management functionality in 2008, but despite all of the changes made this year, there is still a long way to go in providing reliable bid management functionality.
    • Google announced a new quality score method this year that determines CPC in “real-time,” as opposed to its tried and true static quality scores. It also allows for marketers to see first page bids rather than minimum bids.
    • AdWords Editor now allows users to download performance statistics so that analysis and adjustments can easily be made in the same interface. In addition, the newest 7.0 version, allows users to see quality scores and first page bid estimates for keywords.
    • Yahoo! now allows marketers to view average rankings when in the bid editing page.
    • MSN Live Search released a desktop beta tool that is essentially an AdWords Editor for Microsoft.

    Bid management tools are also still a bit behind the curve. While their automation saves paid search managers time by adjusting bids, they are slow to react to changes made by search engines. Adjusting bids manually within the search engine’s interface is often more complicated than just using the free tools offered by search engines. As for full blown campaign management, we’re still not seeing many tools with the ability to handle that functionality yet.

  4. Google extends its lead in the paid search market, either a little or a lot, depending upon how you measure the industry. Without a doubt, Google continues to be the leader in the paid search realm. ComScore recently released that in October 2008 Google Sites held 63.1% of all searches, as compared to58.5% in October of 2007. Google’s revenue also increased 31% from third quarter 2007 to third quarter 2008, raking in $5.54 billion in Q3 2008.As for service offerings, Google rolled out tool after tool after tool aimed at helping paid search marketers in 2008. All of these tools successfully assist marketers in optimizing and expanding their paid search campaigns, allowing for Google to maintain and grow its steady cash flow.
  5. Local search continues to grow, but still has a difficult time providing substantive traffic in most markets. This year businesses flocked to Google Local Business Center. It has become “the” thing to do. As Universal Search rolled out throughout the year, local search optimization became even more visible and critical. In most industries and major cities, a business with a service that is location-specific and not on Google Local, will basically be behind by the end of this year.Furthermore, Google’s Local Business Ads (LBAs), a version of paid ads that appear mostly on Google Maps, contributed heavily to local search’s growth in 2008.
  6. Google rolls Click-To-Call in with its local search service, and still no one cares.Not much word about Click-to-Call this year; still no one cares. What has gained recognition in 2008 is phone call tracking for paid search campaigns. Companies such as ClickPath, provide the ability to track calls to the keyword level.
  7. Google Pay Per Action gains traction with B2C advertisers, struggles with B2B advertisers. Google launched Pay Per Action beta globally in June 2007, but phased it out in 2008, citing the DoubleClick/Performics acquisition as the reasoning.
  8. Google Product Search (previously Froogle) celebrates its sixth birthday, remains in beta. Yes, Google Product Search is still in Beta. During 2008, this product caught up with other comparison shopping engines by showing groups of similar products when a search is performed. This change caught some bloggers’eyes when it first rolled out, but ironically, later in the year Google Product Search made it on the list of search engines you’ve never heard of. An option that many companies have not yet tapped into is submitting services just as you would submit products.
  9. Google continues to rail against paid links. The paid linking industry adjusts and continues to provide SEO benefit to its clients. SocialSpark was launched byPayPerPost in mid-2008, and the head of Google’s webspam team Matt Cuttssays he actually likes IZEA’s new service. SocialSpark provides advertisers an opportunity to pay bloggers for a review but requires a nofollow link to the advertiser.Another paid link vendor, Text Link Ads (TLA) launched InLinks publicly in November. Throughout 2008, Google has commented and posted extensivelythat paid links are in violation of the FTC’s Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. SEO bloggers have been debating about the impact of these changes as recently as the last few weeks.For whatever reason, Yahoo! and MSN haven’t been quite as vocal against paid linking in 2008. Yahoo! isn’t worried about the payment as much as the likelihood that a paid link usually doesn’t give as much value as a non-paid link.
  10. SEO becomes more metrics driven as companies learn to measure their SEO performance. Absolutely. Tracking SEO leads and sales provides ROI that is critical to include in a company’s overall marketing expenditure analysis. The tricky part here is if the company knows what the value of a lead is to them or if they can track natural search visitors all the way through to a sale. During 2008, fewer companies were concerned about rankings as they were forced to look more at the bottom line.
  11. Rumors swirl about an imminent merger between Yahoo! and Microsoft triggering a deluge of blog posts and nothing else. Yes, definitely. Talks between Yahoo! and Microsoft surfaced again early in the year but have fizzled quickly. Mid-2008 Google stole Yahoo! from Microsoft and became the attention of all, but that too died out by the end of the year. Although Google and Yahoo! gave it a shot with a trial period during the spring, antitrust scrutiny and regulatory concerns ultimatelycaused Google to call it quits with Yahoo.
  12. The line between Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing blurs further, except among those that actually know how to perform SEO and/or SMM. SEO and SMM definitely continue to be blurred in some circles (i.e. many marketers think creating a Facebook page will greatly help their search engine efforts). While creation of the company’s profile in these outlets is a fairly straightforward process, actually promoting them becomes much trickier and requires a completely different set of goals and strategies. Tracking offline inquiries becomes an important consideration but is not yet mastered in most campaigns.

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